I will be the first to admit, growing up as a Southerner, parking decks make my skin crawl. Combine my need for sprawling lots with all the true-crime podcasts I listen to daily, and it’s altogether troubling.
All true-crime aficionados know it goes down in the deck. Also, do I have to pay? Will they validate? Are there stairs involved?
Plus, I’m the cheapest/luckiest parker you know. I’m the friend that pulls right into a parallel space on a Saturday night at 11 p.m. I could go on with excuses and reasons why I don’t like parking decks, but this article is in fact about food. More specifically, it’s about the brilliant mashup of food, culture and lifestyle known as the 7th Street Public Market.
The need to find parking should not have kept me from this spot, seriously, but once I finally leaned into easy machine validation, I was pleasantly surprised.
Over the years, I’ve watched 7th Street Public Market — not to be confused with Adams 7th Street Market in Elizabeth — grow and change. Of course, as the skyline exploded, the market began to expand with it. Enormous amounts of foot traffic poured in every weekday, with lunch crowds packing the building.
Here’s the thing about the market: There’s something for everyone. In many ways when we need it most, it’s a cultural escape. I’ve been particularly interested in markets lately because they typically have space both vertically and horizontally.
In a time where you need to stretch out, markets give just that. They are great places to mask up and appease your entire family’s need for safety and variety.
No one has felt the economic impact quite as much as restaurants and entertainment spaces — especially those located in Uptown. All it takes is a trip inside the I-277 loop to see that companies’ forced decisions to pivot their employees to working remotely have emptied our streets. Places like 7th Street Public Market have been dually impacted.
“Like all small businesses in Charlotte, the 7th Street Public Market continues to feel the effects of the pandemic,” says Chris Clouden, executive director at 7th Street Public Market. “Part of what makes the market so special is its role as a community gathering space. We miss the customers and visitors who have made us part of their lives, and want to remind everyone that the market vendors are open and we look forward to safely welcoming you back to the market when you are ready.”
So this is my selfish plant-based plea: Can we support this market? There are so many ways to enjoy 7th Street as a vegetable-forward eater. Let’s get into it!
If you are true to your juice game, you know no one doesn’t it better than Viva Raw. They boast flavors such as my favorite, the Oatmeal Raisin almond milk (it’s like a cookie you can drink!) to the Pearfection (it’s called Pearfection, what more do you need to know?).
Cheeses, tonics, mushroom jerky and meals from Nourish keep the menu well rounded beyond the juices.
While there, our friend Kenya Templeton, market manager of Viva Raw, hipped me to the fact that you can get a banging-ass grilled cheese made with one of Viva Raw’s spreads at Orrman’s. Apparently, everyone in the market knows about this, but it was delicious news to me.
True to Kenya’s words, I was greeted by a staff that was not only helpful with sandwich pairing but also knowledgeable about the bread ingredients and other vegan shop offerings.
I had the No. 2, which is typically Gouda & plum chutney with pickled green tomato on sourdough. We subbed the Gouda for the tomato basil spread from Viva Raw and … voila!
This is not your mama’s (or my) grilled cheese (and my grilled cheese is good good). One bite and my taste buds were like “OKAYYYYY”.
They also informed me that the soup of the day is often vegan. Spreads, jams, olives; I’m just saying, your crudités or vegan charcuterie will be on point after a trip to Orrman’s. It’s the tiny taste of Europe you didn’t even know you were missing during the quarantine.
And while we’re talking artisanal…
I’m not sure if I ever really ventured into Zia Pia until my recent Saturday visit. That was my mistake. Not long ago, planning to make mushroom risotto, I was desperate for something other than Arborio. Searching through my options — they were slim, expensive and uneventful — I ended up with my usual. Little did I know, Italy was right down the street. And I’m not just talking carnaroli … there’s solid variety. Not only are most of their pastas vegan, but there are plenty of gluten-free varieties as well!
Because all this talk of cheese, olives and pasta equals wine. Who asks for a taste of wine at 11 a.m.? This girl! Celine DeMaesschalck effortlessly checked the ingredient list and let me know that the bottle queued up for tasting was indeed vegan. While talking about “fining,” the process of clarifying wine, DeMaesschalck said lots of winemakers are opting to use bentonite clay. This is music to my ears, because who really wants gelatin in their wine? ATWS has several vegan wines and a bitters selection like no other.
While I don’t have the space to name every single vendor in the market, Not Just Coffee is always worth a mention because it’s hard to outdo their quality and style. Of course, you can always expect to find delicious vegan milk options and alternatives to coffee.
Owner Tatyana Riesini was more than helpful on my trip, informing me of all the ways her store is saving the planet — one product at a time. From cute gifts for the naturalista in your life to everyday goods, she has a product lineup that you need in your essential shopping regimen. Most everything in this store is bulk, so bring your clean containers and get ready to shop.
Drum roll, please…
I’d seen the social media posts about this Virginia-bred duo making a slow climb through the restaurant scene by way of amazing fish plates. I must say, I’m not a person that particularly craves fish since shifting my diet decades ago, but make no mistake, I grew up eating fish from my grandmother’s Black pot. And you know what it is on Fridays; if she’s not cooking, we going to the fish camp (Seafarer on Albemarle Road, more specifically).
Anyways, when I heard that Jimmy Pearls also had a fried-vegetable plate I was like, “I guess … But who doesn’t have a vegetable plate?” Lots of people, and also, WRONG! The team was more than accommodating and told me they would sub out the Jimmy Pearls sauce for cocktail sauce. Do I even like cocktail sauce? I’m a veganaise girl, so I grabbed my food, went home, whipped up some tartar sauce and dug in. My god. Transported. My words won’t do it justice, so you just gotta go get your own. I didn’t even need the tartar sauce, a miracle in itself.
Also, a special shout out to the field pea slaw, because we all know how side dishes are used to being treated. Just wow; the slaw is a meal in itself. Jimmy Pearls is open Thursday-Saturday for the time being, so catch them when you can!
This once booked and busy place for hungry lunch eaters has slowed tremendously. If you’re like me, you take your vegan options seriously. Most all of the vendors are available for curbside pickup, which makes it so easy to support and stay safe! Walk, take the light rail, drive and get validated, just get there.
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